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(2021) Soren Skou , CEO of A.P. Moller – Maersk: COVID-19 has shown that our countries are capable of huge and coordinated action

Usually, the China Development Forum coincides with one of the first true spring weekends in Beijing. And I imagine that the weather is getting warmer, trees are having fresh leaves, that there is hope and anticipation in the air. Feelings of hope and anticipation are perhaps extra pronounced this year as vaccines are being rolled out and societies are making progress towards getting the pandemic under control. There is light to be seen at the end of what has been a very long tunnel.

The pandemic has put the global trading system through its most dramatic test in 75 years. Other than protecting our people, my top priority during this crisis as CEO of A.P. Moller - Maersk has been to ensure that global logistics chains continue to work, so that businesses and people can trust their supply chains to do their work – first and foremost that medical supplies reach hospitals and food reaches kitchen tables, but also to minimize harm to our economies and livelihoods. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a litmus test of the robustness of global supply chains.

Throughout the COVID-19 crisis global supply chains have remained open: Our container ships have continued to sail, our ports and warehouses have continued to operate, and trucks have delivered goods to distribution and fulfillment centers. COVID-19 has shown that our countries, businesses, and societies are capable of huge and coordinated action. As the world turns from crisis management to recovery mode, trade will be an essential driver. During the past half century, growth in trade has coincided with unparalleled social progress and wealth creation. Wherever you live, chances are that your wealth is closely tied to how much and how well your country trades. Also this time, trade will be an indispensable tool towards nursing the world back to economic health. However, to make trade work for the recovery, we must apply this same determination and cohesion to three overriding priorities.

We must set trade free to rebuild economies. Protectionism is equivalent to raising taxes on consumers and producers, which is the last thing the recovery needs.

We must restore trust in open trade. The perception that the benefits of trade are not fairly distributed within and between countries is a root cause of protectionism. But protectionism will only reduce the total wealth that can be distributed. To drive sustained recovery and economic growth, we need to restore a rules-based trading system which all participants have to commit to.

We must build resilience in global supply chains. Covid-19 has reminded us that global supply chains are a critical piece of our shared economic infrastructure.As an industry leader I feel strongly that this responsibility requires close dialogue with customers, industry partners, national governments and multilateral organizations.

On a final note, we must remember that other big challenges are awaiting us post COVID-19, for example climate change. In Maersk we have an ambition to become carbon neutral by 2050. Indeed we will, in only a few months, place our first order for our first zero carbon enabled vessel. But the challenges that we face today on climate change are global and cannot be solved by one country or one company alone. Decarbonizing transport chains and the related energy value chains demand close collaboration and deliberate collective action from shipping companies, logistics providers, researchers, technology developers, consumers, and legislators to transform the industry and move away from fossil-based technology. China, as a globally-leading trading and maritime nation, will be a crucial partner towards ensuring that our industry will be able to respond effectively to the climate change challenge.

I wish you all a wonderful spring and I will be looking forward to meeting you all at a coming China Development Forum.

Thank you.